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The most severe cases of loss of smell occur in mild cases of COVID-19

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Partial or total loss of smell is a characteristic symptom of coronavirus disease 2019. And since that manifestation was identified it was seen that can be an isolated symptom or associated with other general symptoms and otorhinolaryngology.

In these months of viral circulation, doctors studied the extent of this olfactory loss, its manifestation and its subsequent restoration. Now, a recent study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine analyzed its prevalence and recovery in patients with varying degrees of severity of COVID-19 and found that Olfactory dysfunction (OD) is more prevalent in mild forms of the disease than in moderate to critical forms.

The researchers studied 2,581 COVID-19 patients from 18 European hospitals, from March 22 to June 3, 2020 and found that the prevalence of OD was significantly higher in the mild form (85.9%), 4.5% in the moderate cases, and 6.9% in the severe to critical cases.

They also concluded that the median duration of olfactory dysfunction reported by patients was 21.6 days, but almost a quarter of affected patients reported that they had not regained their sense of smell 60 days after losing it. This percentage places olfactory dysfunction as the most prevalent symptom, ahead of the typical respiratory symptoms caused by the coronavirus: cough, shortness of breath or fever, present in 40% -50% of cases.

OD disappeared in 95% of patients with respect to objective olfactory evaluations at six months.

OD disappeared in 95% of patients with respect to objective olfactory assessments at six months (Shuterstock)

“Taking into account both subjective and objective data, we can suggest that recovery rate at 60 days ranges from 75% to 85%. Interestingly, we can identify various severity profiles of OD because more than a third of patients reported recovery of smell within 14 days after developing OD, while a third did not recover within 45 days, “they stated. researchers.

Jérome Lechien is a researcher at the University of Mons, in Belgium, and co-author of the study, and highlighted that the symptom “It is like a natural mark to recognize the virus signature”. “When you check the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction among all groups with respect to severity, it can be seen that in serious or critical patients, it only occurs in 10% of cases,” he said.

Consulted by Infobae, the otolaryngologist doctor Stella Maris Cuevas (MN 81701) explained that “people with COVID-19 lose their smell abruptly, many accompanied by alterations in taste and taste (dysgeusia). It is a quantitative loss ”. And after highlighting that “many of these patients recover their smell within a few days, in the course of the 10 days that the contagion period lasts,” he pointed out that “there are others who recover it faster, after two or three days ; in these people it is usually the only symptom of the disease ”.

Smell provides 80% of the flavor, so OD patients are affected by food tasting and are deeply concerned about the persistence of the condition (Shutterstock)

“But there is a percentage of patients who suffer from a qualitative alteration, this means that the quality of what is smelled is lost -he added-. This is known by the name of parosmia (alteration of the perception of what one smells) or dysosmia, which is the distortion of smells”.

According to the expert in smell, allergist and former president of the Association of Otorhinolaryngology of the City of Buenos Aires (AOCBA), “although the recovery of smell in the context of COVID-19 is highly variable, a common factor is how people feel patients with anosmia ”. “These people become depressed when noticing the lack of this sense, with increased anxiety as they realize the importance of smell in daily life: the smell gives 80% of the flavor and thus the food tasting is affected; it interferes with personal and household hygiene and causes deep concern about the persistence of the condition ”, he assured.

For European researchers, “the high prevalence of OD in COVID-19 patients supports the need for primary care physicians, otolaryngology and neurologists to be able to advise patients on the likelihood of recovery and identify those at risk of persistent OD in such a way that therapeutic strategies can be directed appropriately ”.

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